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Corruption claims mar Afghan elections

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 August 2009

Ethnicity and backroom deals, not issues, are likely to determine the outcome of this week's elections in Afghanistan, as Lindsey Hilsum reports.

An election rally in Afghanistan (credit:Reuters)

Once upon a time the Afghan election was a one-horse race - but no longer, with allegations of chronic corruption thrown at President Karzai.

The main rival to President Karzai in Afghanistan's elections, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, drew large and enthusiastic crowds to his rally.

Security guards struggled to control thousands of supporters who tried to surge towards the stage.

President Karzai's own ratings have been dented by allegations of chronic corruption, and Taliban extremists have threatened candidates and voters in their efforts to disrupt the poll.

One of the candidates aiming to become Afghan president, Ramazan Bashardost, told Channel 4 News that "the corruption in Afghanistan has become legal."

He told Alex Thomson: "In each Afghan administration when you would like to have a passport, for example, the Afghan employer asks you openly how much you will pay, and there is a negotiation about how much you must pay. They take money openly."

Bashardost, who polls show lies third in the presidential race, believes other candidates are responsible, along with President Karzai, for corruption in the country because "they built this corrupt system".

"I am absolutely sure that one of the reasons for bad security and war in Afghanistan is the corruption," he said. "If we fight seriously the corruption, it will be a big thing for bringing peace in Afghanistan."

Afghan MP Mohammad Moin Marastyal highlighted the importance to Afghans of the presidential candidates' links to war lords.

"Most of the Afghans are worried about the involvement of the war lords in the future of Afghanistan, especially if they have strong power, if they are involved in high positions of future governments," he said. "We have had very bad experiences in the past over two decades."

"Among most of the strong candidates the war lords are involved. They are big supporters of the key candidates for the presidential positions.

"The Talban is originally against the elections. They think the election should not happen, especially if they war lords are involved in either side."

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